Describing Scenery with Adjectives and Descriptive Language

The first photo I shared in week 3 of #nostalgicnovember was taken in New Zealand. Spread across a bright green, rolling hillside were thousands of off-white dots. These off-white dots looked almost like a vast cotton field. The green grass that peeked from underneath the white specks appeared so bright because of the way its horizon met an almost white sky, an overcast day with one large, luminous cloud covering the sun. When you look at the off-white dots up close, you can see they are not specks of cotton, but sheep. Thousands of sheep danced around the field, in an enclosed area right off a dirt road. This is what I imagine when I think of driving through the countryside on the South Island of New Zealand.

I want you to try and imagine this photo, if you haven’t already, by using the descriptive language to “paint” yourself a picture. You can utilize the many adjectives (bright green, rolling, off-white, vast, overcast, large, luminous, etc..) to bring life to the nouns (things). You can think about the personification* I used to imagine what was happening (the grass peeked, thousands of sheep danced), and apply the comparisons I used to understand what to envision/see in your mind (looked like a vast cotton field). Finally, I gave details in my description that would allow you to visualize concrete things in the photo  ([the] horizon met [the] sky, the sheep, an enclosed area, dirt road), make sure these find their way into your photo.

You are going to see the photo that I was describing below, but I want you to really try and imagine it first to see how powerful descriptive language can be in writing and communication. Learning how to and becoming comfortable with descriptive language will enable you to express yourself more effectively, and use your English language in a more meaningful way. This week on my Instagram photo challenge, it’s the perfect opportunity to practice this skill. Why? Well for 2 reasons. The first is you will have the opportunity to read my posts (@jenesl760), Wanderful‘s posts (@sheswanderful), and other Instagramers, so you can see how we all use descriptive language. You can learn and expand your vocabulary, while improving reading comprehension. The next benefit of participating in the challenge is that you will have the chance to practice writing and using your own descriptive language. Practice makes perfect, right? So apply these new skills and practice using them; plus if you share with me, I will give you personal feedback! A final bonus that’s really amazing is one lucky participator (someone sharing posts, tagging us, and using #nostalgicnovember) will win a prize pack from me and sheswanderful.com! (WAHOO!)

A quick English lesson before we see my photo…

Vocabulary:
off-white [noun] a color that is a slightly gray (grayish) white – often used as an adjective
dots [plural noun]: small round mark (usually a circle)
vast [adjective]: very large in amount or size
peek [verb]: to look at something from a hidden place; to look at briefly
specks [plural noun]: a very small spot or piece of something
luminous [adjective]: very bright, filled with light
enclosed [adjective]: being surround by something, such as a wall or fence
to paint (one’s self) a picture [expression]: to imagine an image in one’s head and visualize it as if it were a real photo or picture
personification [noun]: a form of figurative language, when a human characteristic is applied to something that is not human (like an object or animal)

Personification Examples & Explanations:

As mentioned, personification is when a writer (or someone) gives a human characteristic (a verb, for example) to a non-human thing. In my photo description, I applied the verb PEEK when talking about what the grass was doing. Peeking, or “looking”, is a human characteristic because humans have eyes that can see and look at something, the object, grass, cannot. So I used this verb to help describe how the grass was “looking out” from underneath the sheep, how the grass was essentially looking from a hidden place which was below the sheep. This can help you visualize how little of the grass may be showing, or how many sheep (white specks) there actually are. Additionally, I described the sheep as dancing around the field. We know that a sheep, an animal, doesn’t really have the ability to dance (move to the rhythm of music), so this human characteristic was used to describe the way they seemed to move around (be spread out) across the field.
Other examples of personification:

“I am so hungry that I hear my lunch calling my name!”

“I could hear the leaves whispering in the wind today.”

Emily Dickinson used a few personifications, with adjectives and a verb, in this example: “..”Where bashful flower blow,  and blushing birds go down to drink, and shadows tremble so..”

Now that you have imagined my photo, and an idea of how to use descriptive language, take a look at my first scenery picture. Was it close to what you imagined? What was the same, what did you image differently?

It’s time to practice what you’ve learned in today’s lesson and share your own photos now with me and Wanderful over on Instagram. Participating is easy, remember all you need to do is:

  1. Go to Instagram and make sure you follow me and @sheswanderful
  2. Post your favorite scenic landscape from the past and hashtag #nostalgicnovember and tag the two of us so we can see
    1. Be sure to use as much descriptive language (as mentioned above) as you can for even more practice
  3. See if your photo is a feature on our page, we’ll tag you so you will know!
  4. At the end of the month, we’ll announce the prize winner

I hope you enjoyed your lesson today, and please share with someone you know studying English to help them too! Sharing is caring. Happy Monday and as always,

Happy Studying! ♥

SO versus TOO: What’s the same? What’s different?

Welcome to the beginning of clarity on a topic that confuses many, many people.  

so and too

markconfusedYou are definitely not alone if this is what you look like when trying to understand the similarities  and differences between “so” and “too” and understand how to use the words correctly.

So, allow me to help you understand…

What’s the same?

*Both “so”and “too”are used to add an additional agreement clause in conversations when referring to a positive statement. When we use “so”and “too”, it’s like saying, “I agree with you!” These additional agreement statements avoid repetition of the same words while speaking, and are incredibly common in conversation.
There are some variations in the structure, so pay attention to the examples below.

Paulo says, “I am a chef.”  Paulo’s colleague, Adam, can reply: “I am too.” or “So am I.”

Jennifer says, “I love teaching English!”  Amber and Holly agree, so they each can say: “I do too!” or “So do I!”

Lucy tells her new friend, “I have lived in Australia.” Her new friend, who has also lived there, can respond: “I have too.” or “So have I.”

Notice that the only difference between “so”and “too” is the placement (“so”= beginning & “too”= end). The verb used in the additional agreement clause will depend on the auxiliary used in the main sentence. Use the same auxiliary (be, has/have, modals) as the main clause in your additional statement. If there is no auxiliary verb, use the correct form of “do”.

*Both “so” and “too” are adverbs, which means they are used to modify or describe other adverbs, adjectives, verbs, or sentences. The descriptions they give, however, are very different…..

What’s different?

*While it is true that “so” and “too” both mean very or extremely, I am putting this under a difference because of the overall connotation (meaning) that these two words give. In general, we use the word “too” to indicate something negative. We use it to say that an adjective or an adverb is excessive, or more than what is wanted/needed/desired/possible. When something is more than what we want or is possible, it becomes something negative because it may be more than we can handle, or it may go beyond something we can control. Let’s take a look at some examples to clarify:

ADJECTIVES: cold, challenging
-It is so cold today that I had to wear a scarf.   (It’s cold, but tolerable with a scarf)
-It is too cold today, I would rather stay inside. (It’s cold to the point that I cannot tolerate being outside)
-That test was so challenging today. I studied, though, so I think I’ll pass. (Even though it was challenging, I think I did well)
-That test was too challenging today. Even though I studied, I don’t think I’ll pass. (Even though I studied, it was challenging to the point that I don’t think I did well)

ADVERBS: quickly, harshly (cruelly, severely)
-You finished your homework so quickly!  (Perhaps you understood it well. This could be a praise)
-You finished your homework too quickly!  (It was quicker than what is expected, so perhaps there are some errors or problems with the work. Definitely not a praise)
-You spoke so harshly to her, maybe you should apologize. (The degree of harshness (cruelty) was high, it might warrant an apology)
-You spoke too harshly to her, you need to apologize (The degree of harshness (cruelty) was higher/more extreme than what is appropriate, so an apology is absolutely necessary)

NOTE: sometimes when “too” is placed in front of a very positive adjective (nice, kind, beautiful), it can indicate something positive; however, it is still emphasizing that it is more than what would be expected.

“You are too kind.” →  You are very kind, kinder than what I would expect from you or another person

*When used before a verb, the words “so” and “too” also take on very different meanings. The word “too” is going to mean ‘as well’, and “so” is going to give added emphasis or force meaning ‘without a doubt’ (very)

I too wanted to go with them. (I wanted to go with them too. I wanted to go with them as well.)

I so wanted to go with them. (I really wanted to go. I wanted to go with them very much/without a doubt).

Do you have any questions? Feel free to add them below, in the comment section, and I’ll give you additional help or another example. Try creating some of your own sentence examples for practice, and make sure you use this new information in your writing and conversations this week! If you know someone studying English, who loves English, or might benefit from this article/blog, please share the link or use the buttons below! Thanks, and as always…

Happy Studying! ♥

#NostalgicNovember Instagram Challenge + Ways to Improve your English Participating!

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Phrasal Verb Friday: Fall

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Gerund Vs Infinitive- Part 2

Hey guys, I’m back!! As promised we are going to continue the part 1 post to discuss more about Gerunds vs Infinitives. I hope you understood everything on the first post, but if not, don’t mind asking questions..

Now, we already went through the gerund part of this grammar topic, so let’s talk about when and how we should use the infinitive. First of all, I want to clarify the difference between the infinitive form and the base form of a verb. The infinitive is composed of “to” + a verb, whereas the base form is only composed of the verb. For instance, the verb “sleep” in its infinitive form is “to sleep” and its base form is “sleep”.

As the gerund, the infinitive also comes as a noun in the subject or object position.

  • As a subject: although is not so common to see infinitives as subjects, it’s not impossible, so we will list it here.

To swim is my favorite hobby.
To dance is an amazing activity.

  • As a subject complement: this case is more common to happen than the first one. The infinitive complements the subject and between them there MUST be a linking verb.

My favorite hobby is to swim. (notice that I’ve just paraphrased the last example, which shows that both exist but, as said, this one is more common than the other)

  • After adjectives: infinitives often follow adjectives to give reasons.

He was sad to say goodbye to his family members.
The company owner was anxious to make the next move.

  • Verbs that are followed by infinitives:
    • afford
    • agree
    • appear
    • arrange
    • ask
    • care
    • decide
    • demand
    • expect
    • fail
    • hope
    • learn
    • manage
    • mean
    • offer
    • plan
    • prepare
    • pretend
    • promise
    • refuse
    • seem
    • volunteer
    • wait
    • want
    • wish
  • Besides these verbs, there are also verbs that can be followed by either a gerund or an infinitive WITHOUT a change in meaning:
    • begin
    • continue
    • hate
    • like
    • love
    • prefer
    • start
  • And the verbs that can be followed by both WITH  a change in meaning:
    • remember
    • forget
    • stop

I would like to make a side note to discuss these 3 verbs due to the change in meaning whether they are followed by the gerund or infinitive.

Remember and forget follow the same idea, meaning: “remember/forget you have done something”  or related to memory in the sense of “having/not having memory about a fact in the past” when is used with a gerund; or meaning “to forget/remember you need to do something” when is used with an infinitive.

Don’t forget to practice when you finish studying. ( In this case, somebody is advising you to practice later, hence this action is placed in the future)
She forgot giving me her keys yesterday. (Here, the woman forgot she has given the keys to her friend, so the action is placed in the past)

Remember to talk to your boss about the vacation trip. (In this sentence, the person had to remember to do it, so the action is placed in the future)
I remember seeing him last week at the gym. (In this one, I remember I saw a friend last week, thus the action is placed in the past)

Stop does not follow the same thinking but it’s even easier to understand and use. Stop with a gerund means you quit an addiction, a habit or anything you used to do. However, when it is used with an infinitive, it brings the idea of “in order to”.

I stopped my car to talk to an old friend. (In this sentence, I stopped driving my car in order to talk to an old friend, so the action was the reason why I stopped)
I stopped drinking soda 6 years ago. (Here, I quit doing something I used to do, drink soda)

So, that’s all for now..Please, let me know if I made myself clear on both posts and how you are improving on this topic. It will be my pleasure to share more information if you need :):) Have a nice rest of the week!!!♥

Gerund vs Infinitive – Part 1

Hiii everyone!! I got this amazing invitation from Jennifer to be here contributing to the blog and your learning and I am sooo excited for it. Why? Because I was/am Jennifer’s student just as you are, so as an ESL learner, I am sure we have a lot to share on this journey of learning English.

Let me tell you a bit of my own journey…Last year I lived in San Diego for almost 10 months and it was the best time of my life (if you’re thinking about going for an exchange year, I encourage you to do it! You won’t regret it, actually you won’t want to go home haha). When I moved, I already knew a few things in English and I started school at a High Intermediate level. I could understand and read well, but I couldn’t speak and that was my main goal: to speak the best I could, with the least accent possible (I warn you from the beginning: You will always have an accent and that’s fine, it shows your identity). I got to Proficiency level, then I decided to take a TOEFL preparation course and, later, the test. Besides school, I lived with a host family whom I loooove ♥ and I’m certain they had a huge contribution to my learning. Ok, let me cut to the chase (idiom: to focus on what is important; to skip the unnecessary part) and go to what really matters here..

I chose GERUNDS for today’s post so we can kill two birds with one stone (idiom: when you solve two problems at one time): 1) clarify a topic commonly confused or misunderstood and 2) write for week 3 of #AugLP.

As you all might know, a gerund is the “ing” form of the verb, but how is it used? What part of speech or functions does it fit under? Well, this varies by the context. The gerund is used as a noun and it can fit the subject or object position.

  • As subject: when it’s in the beginning of a sentence working as the subject of the verb (verb MUST be singular)

Eating is the best thing to do in Italy.
Living abroad is a good way to learn a new language.

  • As a direct object: when complementing the verb directly

I love running by the sea.
I consider littering a serious crime.

  • Preposition + gerund: after every preposition that is followed by a verb, the verb comes in its gerund form

After waiting for 45 minutes, it was finally my turn to ride the roller-coaster.
I always feed my dog before going out.
I don’t know much about selling stocks.
I congratulated her for passing the exam.

  • As a subject complement: the subject complement can be a noun, an adjective or a pronoun that describes the subject. Between the subject and the complement there must be a linking verb (most common one is the verb to be).

My favorite activity is swimming.
The best tip for a good performance on a test is sleeping well the night before.

  • As an object complement: just like the subject complement, the object complement gives more detail to the object by describing it with a noun, pronoun or adjective.

I found the student sleeping during the class.
I had issues getting used to the blog editor.

The last part I consider the hardest to associate since there is no rule, only memorization and practice. But, seriously, with practice it starts coming naturally and you will not find it challenging anymore.

  • Verbs and phrases always followed by the gerund: the list below contains the most common verbs and phrases for this category
    • admit
    • advise
    • avoid
    • be used to
    • can’t help
    • can’t stand
    • consider
    • deny
    • discuss
    • dislike
    • end up
    • enjoy
    • feel like
    • finish
    • get used to
    • give up
    • go on
    • have difficulty
    • have problems
    • have trouble
    • imagine
    • it’s no use
    • it’s worthwhile
    • keep
    • look forward to
    • mention
    • mind
    • miss
    • recommend
    • quit
    • spend time
    • suggest
    • understand
    • waste time
    • work at

Besides that, there is still more specific content comparing the use of gerunds and infinitives, which is going to be discussed on a future post, part 2.

Let’s practice???

Create examples about yourself using each of the cases we’ve studied for the gerund and let me know more about you!! Does it sound good?? :))

Overall, I hope this post has been helpful so far and feel free to get in touch with me or Jennifer for any questions or explanations. Don’t forget to practice!!! Have a nice week, guys!

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Phrasal Verb Friday: Work Out

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Learn and Improve English with Instagram

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